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Trucking technology driving away needed labor?

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I recently did a big story on the national shortage of truck drivers, apparently to a disbelieving audience.

In the week that followed publication of this piece, I discussed the driver shortage idea with three different people who didn’t believe me. A friend of mine who spent most of the last 20 years as a trucking company dispatcher didn’t believe me.

I must admit the numbers don’t really add up. There’s still tens of thousands of people out of work, yet truck driving jobs paying $40,000 and up remain unfilled. The American Trucking Associations said there is a shortage of 30,000 truckers nationwide, a figure that could swell to 200,000 in a decade.

So why do people seemingly not want to drive big rigs for good money? Hold on to that thought.

Another story I read this week concerned a new smartphone application from Omnitracs that allows companies to track drivers’ movements. The technology company claims this will help employees be “safer and more productive,” Transport Topics reported.

Hmmm... That is certainly one way to look at it.

Omnitracs Tracking can pinpoint a driver’s location in real time using the phone’s GPS, street maps and satellites. The app also can monitor a driver’s speed and capture performance data for the company, Transport Topics reported.

Fleet managers can access a driver’s location and speed through a website, which enables them to give real-time updates to customers.

“Every transportation company with a mobile workforce wants to know the location and key behaviors of their drivers,” Dan Speicher, chief technology officer for Omnitracs, said in a statement.

I don’t doubt that they do, but should they be able to know that info? And at what cost are they pursuing it?

Speaking for myself, as interesting as it might be to be a cross-country truck driver, I wouldn’t want to do it knowing my every movement was being monitored via my company-issued smartphone.

The Omnitracs app also allows companies to predefine maximum speed allowed, GPS gap, over-road speed and stationary-position time limits.

“Stationary-position time limits?” Does that mean if I have that extra cup of coffee inside the diner, my truck is going to lock me out? Or does Siri simply order me to get the wheels rolling?

It all seems a little too Big Brother to me. And I think the kinds of folks who would make great truck drivers are probably a little turned off as well.

Maybe that’s the reason 20,000 trucking jobs are unfilled.

John Hilton

John Hilton

John Hilton covers Cumberland County, manufacturing, distribution, transportation and logistics. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at johnh@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JHilton32. Circle John Hilton on .

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Keith August 18, 2014 7:58 pm

Very few people are willing to continue giving up their freedoms of privacy and freedom of movement. All this technology is great for the purposes that the big companies try to sell to us, but doing so makes us prisoners in our own cabs. Allowing the government to monitor our every move in our cabs is a precursor to them monitoring us in our homes. Even thought to a certain extent they already do. Everyday some company comes out with some new technology or gadget with bells and whistles that some bureaucrat falls in love with. However, it is nothing more than another means of controlling the population. There has to be a point where enough is enough and we free citizens say no more. Continue to add all this technology and monitoring and you will continue to see drivers leave the industry. Already the senior most experienced drivers are leaving because they do not want nor will they allow EOBR's, Electronic Logs, Dash Cameras or anything else that they see as an invasion on their freedoms. So, if you want to rebuild the driver workforce; stop all the intrusive monitoring, video taping and control.

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